Students eager with questions enjoyed a complimentary continental breakfast as Mayor Dan Sullivan took his seat beside USUAA Senator Andrew Lessig in the Student Union upstairs lounge Feb. 6.
Max Bullock, business management sophomore, opened the Q&A session with a public safety inquiry.
“I was wondering what the municipality was doing to try and combat that (high murder rates in Anchorage) and reduce murder rates,” Bullock said.
Sullivan answered, “The murder rate is not up, and in fact, the overall crime rate in Anchorage is on the decline and has been for three years.”
Sullivan said he brought in an assessment team when he was first elected mayor to ensure the police department was “deploying their resources in the most efficient manner to be most effective in fighting crime.”
After observing the structure of the police depart- ment, the team made several strategic recommendations about how to fight crime in Anchorage.
Among several things, they suggested “community policing.”
“What we’ve done is we’ve started to assign police officers in particular areas that is their beat every day so they get to know the people in these neighborhoods…,” Sullivan said.
He went on to explain how this builds a trusting rela- tionship, which creates a more efficient patrol of the entire city.
According to Sullivan, crime in Anchorage has reduced in five of seven major crime categories, includ- ing murder. He said there are 14-20 murders reported annually in Anchorage.
He also said there are fewer crimes reported annu- ally in Anchorage now than there were in 1981, even though Anchorage’s population has grown 70 percent since then.
Sullivan then discussed how Anchorage has used recent surpluses from the annual budget to fund several things “on the books” that “needed to be taken care of.”
When building Glenn Square, contaminated soil was accidentally moved to another piece of municipal prop- erty by mistake.
“It took about $1 million to clean up that PCB-laden property…,” Sullivan said.
He also said the Kincaid soccer fields were acciden- tally tainted with lead by the contractors.
An additional $1 million was used to clean that prop- erty.
A $3.5 million loan from the city’s electric utilities was also paid off with some of the surplus funds.
The mayor later said Forbes named Anchorage the number-one city in America for jobs.
Between the military bases and the Port of Anchor- age, which receives 85 percent of all locally imported goods, the mayor said there is “probably no better place in America for job opportunities” than Anchorage.
His statement is not entirely true. In 2010, Anchorage was rated the third mid-size city in the United States for jobs by Forbes.
Mabil “Mo” Duir, English and political science soph- omore, asked the mayor what parents, the Anchorage School District, the Anchorage Police Department and McLaughlin Alternative School can do to end the cycle of students who are consistently in and out of the school.
The mayor did not answer Duir’s question.
He instead diverted the conversation to the impor- tance of learning English for non-native speakers.
Sullivan said there is a 90 percent chance he will not run against Senator Mark
Begich in the next election. He did not say why.
The city of Anchorage is currently being sued for the recent ban against sitting on Anchorage sidewalks.
A pre-submitted comment about the ban read, “The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Anchorage for the recent ban on sitting on the sidewalk, which was aimed at preventing panhandling.”
Lessig said the group believes this is a violation of civil liberties.
The mayor explained the reasoning behind the ban.
“We don’t have any problem with somebody sitting down and eating on the sidewalk,” Sullivan said. “But when people start taking public space and turning it into their own private space, that’s taking from everyone.”
He also said officials followed the same logic sup- porting the ban on camping in non-recreational parks to come to a conclusion on the sidewalk ban.
According to Sullivan, there is a panhandling ban in downtown Anchorage.
In other areas of town, there are also laws prohibit- ing panhandlers from walking into the street to solicit or collect money.
It is also against the law for drivers to lure panhan- dlers into the road.
Sullivan said San Francisco and Berkeley, CA, have similar laws banning sitting on sidewalks.
He also said the similar laws in these other cities have already been tested in a court of law, and they have not
Another pre-submitted question asked the mayor if
he would like to see non-partisan elections spread from local elections to statewide or nationwide elections.
“There is no such thing as a democrat or republican pothole,” Sullivan said, about his stance on nonpartisan local elections.
He said he sees many more drastic stances on nation- al issues than with local city management.
Bruce Schultz, vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, pre-submitted a question reading, “What are you doing to improve our young people’s readiness to go to college in the Anchorage School District and in the Anchorage area?”
Schultz asked that Lessig note 50 percent of incom- ing freshman at UAA take “zero level courses,” which- Sullivan also called “remedial high school” classes in order to advance to university-level courses.
Sullivan said last year’s Mayor Education Summit, which gathered 100 local educators and faculty members and seven national education experts, ranked Anchorage in comparison to other cities in the country.
According to Sullivan, the nine-minute video sum- ming up these results can be found at muni.org/educa- tionsummit.
Sullivan believes the process of receiving a teaching degree should be more rigorous.